[EXPRESSO] Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko (2021) | Niku Niku Ni!

Anime cinema time!

Finally arriving here as a 3 days only event screening, Fortune Favours Lady Nikuko (based on a novel of the same name by Kanako Nishi) is the latest feature film from director Ayumu Watanabe (Children Of The Sea, Space Brothers) and once again animated by Studio 4C.

A more straightforward tale than Children Of The Sea, the movie tells the story of the titular Nikuko, an easy going, cheerful, incredibly passionate and gluttonous woman who falls for crappy men that swindle her, forcing to continuously move elsewhere with her 11 yo girl, Kikuko, whom is unsurprisingly embarassed by her mother penchant for eating, her goofy demeanours and naivetè. Despite having nothing in common, they settled in living on a boat in a small port town.

Incredible animation, realistic portrayal and characterization of kids that age, a good balance between drama and comedy, some effective emotional moments, great characterization, there’s pretty much everything that makes a good film… and this is a good film, flawed but still good.

Despite being the title character, this is the story of her child, Kikuko, while Ninuko feels like a support comic relief, as she’s animated differently for that very purpose, and while you can’t really hate her, it’s frustrating how she ultimately lacks the proper nuance as a character to be more than a butt for the many visual fat jokes.

Also, while you get invested in the events, there’s barely a plot at all, more like a collage of slice life sequences focused on character study, which is fine but there’s also not much even in terms of overarching conflicts, so it’s kinda hard to stay invested all the way through.

Even so, it’s still a good film…. you most likely will not fall in love with at first watch.

Spy X Family (2022) [ANIME FIRST IMPRESSIONS]

I didn’t plan to do another “first impressions” piece on a recent anime release, especially since the original manga by Tatsuya Endo (whom you might be already familiar with, as he previously worked on fan-favourite TISTA) sky-rocketed in popularity after debutting on Shonen Jump in 2019, and especially last year as it received wider releases globally.

A relatively new series on Jump with an original premise that doesn’t fall in the “battle manga” genre, but instead goes for a spy theme was bound to turn heads and be popular, and eventually get an anime series. So here we are, and while this series doesn’t need my “push” to become popular or anything (as it’s also streaming in most countries on Crunchyroll, which is obviously marketing the hell out of it) it’s one of the few shows i’ve decided to actually follow as they air this season (alongside Ya Boy Kongming!, of course), so might as well say something about it.

Once again, i’m considering the first 3 episodes as a basis to draw these first impressions from.

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Paripi Koumei / Ya Boy Kongming! (2022) [ANIME FIRST IMPRESSIONS]

(Impressions based upon the first 3 episodes)

I stumbled by chance into this new anime, and i feel it was meant to be, given my love for Romance Of The Three Kingdoms i’m not gonna skim over a new anime with good ol’ Zhuge Liang (AKA Kongming) as the protagonist, especially since it’s not a historical tale, but a sort of isekai-ish story where, after his death by illness in the Wuzhang Plains, sees him reincarnated as his young self in modern Shibuya during Halloween.

He gets drunk as a skunk and enjoys the party life that night, then the next day he’s helped by a young girl, an aspiring singer called Eiko, realizes what actually happened to him, and decides to help her back by serving as her “career strategist”, but first he needs a job to secure some “war funds”.

Luckily Eiko works and sings at a club run by a huge ROTTK nerd, so “ya boy” Kongming is hired as a barman.

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[EXPRESSO] C’Mon C’Mon (2021) | Kids Know

I’m not familiar with Mike Mill as a film director, but it’s shot in black and white, it stars Joaquin Phoenix? Indeed, quite the easy prey we can be.

Though, “prey” it’s honestly unfair. It’s a movie with ambition and that wants to investigate upon important themes like parenthood, family dysfunctions and all those entangle, from the constant struggle it require to the its “failings” and how it affects the children in return.

The premise for this is set as Johnny, a radio journalist famous for his interviews and documentaries, goes on a tour of the United States asking kids from varying cities and background about themselves, their fears and hopes, their outlook on the future, etc etc.

One day he gets asked from his sister to take care of his nephew Jessie for a few days, as she has to help her husband to deal with his recent bout of mental illness, so Johnny takes Jessie with him on his work days, and the two form a very special bond.

There’s the familiar dynamic of “not that mature adults with way too mature kids”, and the themes aren’t exactly unimportant, but honestly the films feels way too ponderous on the fact that “kids are people too”, and the way this dynamic works in here feels kinda contradictory in terms of responsability and parenthood, as the adult has never enough pulse to practice some of its own teachings, as Jessie never shuts up or its reprimended, but he’s overindulged even over the smallest, tiniest misunderstanding regardless.Even if it’s arguably less educative. Ops.

I don’t think this is a bad movie, but it’s a bit too cerebral, too fictitious at heart for its own sake, and bit boring at times, but its held together – despite these issues – by Joaquin Phoenix’s performance.

Beaster Day: Here Comes Peter Cottonhell AKA The Beaster Bunny (2014) [REVIEW] | Behind, The Rabbit

We’re not doing Night Of The Lepus, i’m not feeling like talking about that again, and frankly i don’t have anything else to say about that movie, only that while not good, nor that intriguing and throughly laughable… in time i had a new found appreciation for it, after witnessing shit like Beaster Day: Here Comes Peter Cottonhell, also known as “The Beaster Bunny”.

I’ve reviewed this one before for the older italian blog, but it feels like it was aeons ago, i was more naive, i didn’t yet dive proper into the trashy abyss of the homegrown, DIY no budget cinema waters, where often you wonder why the direct didn’t direct a porno instead that week.

So here we have the counter-example, the mirror image of the Polonia Bros output, as in John Baccus mostly makes cheap “porno spoofs” of whatever random movie series or not, giving us stuff like “Playmate Of The Apes”, “Kinky Kong” or the surprisingly recent “Mad Maxine: Frisky Road”, while occasionally making horror stuff without “erotic” in the title, like “Frankenthug”, or “Bloodz VS Wolvez”, just shy at writing these in leet.

This is one of such occasions, where most of the effort is put into the pun-reference to Rankin/Bass’ Here Comes Peter Cottontail (of which this is extensively a parody, but i wouldn’t really known), and the puppet of the “beaster bunny” itself.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants In Manhattan PS4 [REVIEW] | Not Very Neat

Since i did mention the game in my impressions on the Babylon’s Fall demo, and there’s a huge compilation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games (most of the ones done by Konami) being released soon, i’d figured why not, let’s talk about this disappointing as heck turtle excretion, which pretty much killed any potential for more videogames based on beloved nostalgic cartoon series by Platinum Games, after their shortish but really good take on Transformers (the older ones, known as “Generation 1”, or “G-1”) with Transformers Devastation.

I mean, at least this one can still be found around in physical form, unlike other Turtles game, for example the TMNT: Out Of The Shadows one (don’t expect a review of that).

Or the similarly crappy Legend Of Korra game Platinum Games also developed, also deslisted after Activision didn’t wanna renew the license for, BUT i happen to have bought the PS3 version and i still have it, so that i might review, in order to proper understand how Platinum as a studio it’s capable of both incredible height and shitty lows that spoil the studio’s reputation, still.

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[EXPRESSO] Sonic The Hedgehog 2 (2022) | & Knuckles

Might as well, since i did watch the first live action Sonic movie 2 years ago, i didn’t hate it, so let’s see if there are some improvements or whatever. Shame that since it’s dubbed here i won’t be able to hear Idris Elba voicing Knuckles, but what can you do?

After banishing Eggman/Robotnik into another dimension at the end of the first movie, Sonic and his acquired human family move to a peaceful town in Montana. Sonic tries to moonlight as a superhero-vigilante but as he causes more trouble by doing so he’s recommended to lay low and wait until his powers will be needed again.

Turns out that time is sooner than expected, as Dr. Robotnik comes back from his fungine dimensional exile, bringing a powerful creature known as Knuckles fighting for him in search of the fabled Master Emerald, while Sonic finds an ally in the two-tailed fox Tails.

To my surprise, this one (in a similar fashion to the actual videogame sequel of the original Sonic The Hedgehog game) is better, still nothing mind blowing, but it’s definitely a step up, not only as the story ups the ante (as expected), introduces more characters, but also has more lore about the world from where Sonic was born, with the owls vs echidnas wars and stuff.

It’s just more fleshed out all around, with even the human characters having some funny bits, the various elements from the game being integrated more into the plot, which is pretty much predictable all the way but quite enjoyable, in no small part thanks – once again – to Jim Carrey’s gargantuan serving of acting ham as Doctor Robotnik, but also due to the more substantial plot.

It’s honestly a decent family-kids movie with a 90s flair (deliberately and fittingly so).

[EXPRESSO] The Bubble (2022) | Comedy Out Of Time

Decided to dip my toes once again into the Netflix new releases, still not much luck.

The Bubble it’s honestly kinda sad as it has a nice idea, being a comedy happening on the set of the new movie in the fictional “Cliff Beasts” B-movie series, completely taking place in the hotel where the cast it’s quarantined in until the movie it’s finished.

The first problem is that The Bubble it’s a satirical comedy that not only loses all its edge as it dwells on the expected themes and almost comes off as hypocritical, poking fun at the movie industry when it was written in a rush in early 2021 in order to make itself relatable to the viewer, goes for a lot of comedy low-hanging fruits, and hopes the excellent cast of comedy actors would suffice.

The other problem is that it feels incredibly dated already and worse, it’s not really that funny, to be blunt.

It has its moments where it works, undeniably, so it’s not a completely laugh-free Netflix affair, and it’s not grating, but the straightforward approach and scattershot nature of the movie as a glorified series of improv sketches doesn’t help, and makes one wonder why the fuck it’s 2 hours long.

The self-awareness about content for content’s sake might have worked if it didn’t feel so depressingly leaning into the audience having compassion for it more than being entertained by, which gets extra depressing and ironic due to how incredibly ancient it feels out of the box.

It’s a shame because there could have been something to it, there’s an effort in making the premise work, but instead it comes off a depressing and kinda desperate comedy that even at peak freshness feel like it was imprisoned in a space capsule alongside Rita Repulsa.

[EXPRESSO] CODA (2022) | Teenage Fugue

I kinda hate the context surrounding this movie, as it forces me to basically aknowledge that the Oscars still matter somewhat… as in, i usually don’t even bother to check on them, they’re mostly pointless and become even more so as time goes on, but i did know of “the slap” and that this year this film won “best movie”. And since it just hit theathers here, figured i’d take a look anyway.

CODA is about teenage girl Ruby, the only person in her deaf family being able to hear and speak (hence the titular “Child Of Deaf Adults”), that at school enters the choir club, and discovers to have quite the beatiful and powerful voice.

She eventually has to make a difficultion decision: continue her musical training, follow her dream and go to a respected music college, or keep helping her family in their struggling business of fishermen, even more as she’s the only link between their family and the rest of the world.

I’ll say this: this is a good film. It’s a coming of age story that deals with hearing disabilities, but honestly does so very well, as it treats deaf people as people, not pity patron saints, actual people, while not weaseling away from the obvious obstacles and perception they receive from others, and manages to balance the drama-comedy ratio quite well, it’s not a mopey affair at all, the characters come off as real but can be quite funny. I really liked the father, what a jolly fellow.

I’m glad i did go see CODA, i am, i do think it’s a good film, overall, but it’s honestly nothing special regardless of how you slice it, even more since it’s a remake of the 2014 french film La Famille Bélier.

Still worth a watch, anyway.

Kraa! The Sea Monster (1998) [REVIEW] | Pizza Sentai Aliens To The Rescue!!!

Last year we ended Giant Monster March with Zarkorr!! The Invader, so it’s only right to end this year’s run with the other direct-to-video giant monster movie produced by Full Moon Entertaiment (under their Monster Island Entertaiment label) and directed by Aaron Osborne, Kraa! The Sea Monster.

Always gotta scream your title, to be sure.

The plot sees the intergalactic overlord Lord Doom, master of the Dark Planet, Proyas (likely still salty over Gods of Egypt’s reception), send the giant monster known as Kraa on Earth in order to destroy and conquer it. A squad of the intergalactic teen guardians known as Planet Patrol tries to intervene, but it’s attacked by Lord Doom and so they enlist the only available agent, Mogyar, to reach Earth and destroy Kraa at all cost, even with the help of the planet’s inhabitants if need be.

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